by James Camden
On July 10, 2013, Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York issued a 160-page opinion holding that Apple conspired with five book publishers to raise e-book prices and eliminate retail price competition in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and several relevant state statutes. United States v. Apple Inc., case number 12-civ-2826 (DLC). The five publishers – Hatchett, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuester – had all previously settled with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The opinion stated that as Apple prepared to launch its iPad to the public and sought to concurrently enter the e-book market with its iBookstore, it met with the publishers and agreed to provide them with an “agency model” for e-book pricing that allowed the publishers to set the prices of the e-books themselves, subject to certain price caps. Apple’s agreements with the publishers also included Most Favored Nation provisions which ensured that Apple could match its competitors’ prices and also provided an incentive for the publishers to lobby Amazon and other retailers to change their wholesale business models to agency models. According to the court’s opinion, these agency model agreements caused e-book prices to increase, sometimes 50% or more for a specific title.
A separate trial for potential damages will be scheduled later. Apple said it will appeal the ruling.